Diagnosing and Treating Network Challenges in Public Hospitals | Riverbed

Technology has changed how the healthcare industry functions in almost every aspect, from providing care to managing patient records to processing insurance claims and other tedious admin tasks. Unfortunately, most applications managing these different functions don’t communicate with each other efficiently, and this can paralyse the hospital operations and disrupt critical care services.

In my experience, I have come across many end-users who often accept this network failure as an unavoidable fact or attribute it to their inability to adopt new technologies. The irony is that they do not even realise that these issues can be rectified. Let’s take a closer look at how network health can change this perception and make administering care and managing tedious admin tasks easier for hospital staff.

The technology struggles in public hospitals

While we were working with the government to help them gain visibility into their network across agencies, we found that the public hospital’s staff was struggling due to network issues. Lack of end-to-end network visibility and disparate applications working in silos was hindering the public hospitals and creating friction for their teams.

The public hospitals were struggling to manage critical day-to-day functions like uploading patient records, online prescriptions, clinical records, insurance claims processing, Medicare claims, automated sterilisation of tools and video consultation. But what was the common factor? All these functions relied on the performance of their underlying network, and it was network latency that was often causing bottlenecks.

Why network latency is a big threat to healthcare 

Over the last few decades, the healthcare sector has made some great leaps in terms of technology. Digital technologies like analytics and wearable technology that can transform patient diagnosis and treatment are becoming more and more common. Bio-tech companies have invested billions to bring about this transformation and devised technologies for preventive treatments. Technology is enabling better patient outcomes for terminal diseases and common illnesses through early diagnosis by comparing historical data and new treatment methods. And while new technologies and devices are being introduced to healthcare facilities every day, their network is not even equipped to support everyday hospital operations, let alone the latest innovations and breakthroughs in the industry.

Network challenges are compounded by the fact that hospitals have special requirements when it comes to wireless connectivity. Certain sections in hospitals are designed to block or limit radiation or some specific frequencies. Hospitals rarely take into account future IT needs during the construction stage, which means they can be challenging environments for network optimisation. Any request to make changes to hospital interiors can take months or even years to get approval. Because of these factors, the way devices are configured to use the hospital network can be very different compared to other industries. That means even if you have a good network, your applications are still likely to underperform.

From where I see it, we need to lay the groundwork on an urgent basis, and a good network partner to help you do that. While helping you build a robust underlying network, your network partner also needs to have an in-depth knowledge of the healthcare industry and its limitations. You can only support day-to-day hospital operations, enable seamless communication with external agencies and partners and improve patient experience when the foundation of your IT network is robust. Anything below 100% network efficiency is unacceptable in healthcare.

When evaluating the network performance at this federal territory’s public hospitals, we discovered a concerning diagnosis. One of the major recurring issues was the delay in medical procedures due to operational issues, made worse by network limitations. Lack of sterilised equipment, delayed test results and poor staff coordination were all symptoms of a poorly performing network. The applications supporting the scheduling of medical procedures, resourcing and housekeeping functions were not talking to each other, resulting in a massive backlog of medical procedures, poor patient experience and employee frustration.

The treatment: anywhere-to-anywhere visibility with Riverbed Unified NPM

After doing our thorough due diligence and examining the extent of the problem, we recommended an immediate course of action for the public hospitals’ network. They clearly needed a network performance monitoring solution to help monitor and remove bottlenecks. They had all the applications in place to improve patient care and employee experience, but these applications were not working in tandem with each other, and they hadn’t realised that the network was the underlying issue.

We deployed Riverbed’s full-stack unified network performance monitoring solution while ensuring alignment with government-mandated compliance requirements.

The unified solution we implemented comprised of:

  • Alluvio NetProfiler for hybrid network traffic monitoring. This was of immense help for the complex hospital network, as hospitals constantly communicate with internal and external endpoints. They were now able to manage information flow with end-to-end network monitoring and visibility, which is critical for monitoring patient health in real time, raising insurance claims, maintaining medical records and improving overall hospital operations.
  • Alluvio AppResponse, which helped monitor and analyse network-based application performance. They could now fix issues in the network as soon as they identified a problem to avoid disruptions in day-to-day operations.
  • Alluvio NetIM maps application network paths to improve IT infrastructure monitoring and troubleshooting at the granular level. This mapping is crucial as hospital staff across different functions tend to use different applications.
  • Alluvio Portal, which helps gain control of the network and provides integrated network and application insights. They are now equipped to understand if their IT systems are working as they should.

The hospital’s IT team now enjoys end-to-end, bi-directional visibility across network paths connecting them to:

  • In-house datacentres
  • GP clinics and other service providers
  • Medical device manufacturers
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Government agencies
  • Third-party services, entities and systems

The outcomes for hospitals

The hospitals have experienced a 180° improvement in their operations. They can now quickly find and fix network performance problems before impacting patient care, operations or data confidentiality.

They can also:

  • Minimise problems associated with unpredictable network connectivity, which previously impacted the efficiency of overworked healthcare and admin staff
  • Support wireless devices from tablets to smartphones to wearable medical devices for quick diagnosis and real-time patient monitoring
  • Roll out new network-intensive services, such as live video conferencing with surgeons from across the world when performing complex or rare surgeries

Even after investing millions in technology, I often see organisations struggling with the chaos caused by disparate IT applications and unreliable networks. This chaos increases manifold when we are dealing with critical healthcare services.

Having an experienced network partner can be invaluable to making sure your network is both efficient and stable. Get in touch with a Riverbed consultant for a no-obligation consultation to explore how your organisation can transform its network to run key operations seamlessly and reliably.

This post was first first published on Riverbed Blog’s website by Darren Blair. You can view it by clickinghere